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Top 5 NYC Venues For New Artists To Play

Hillary Capps There so many venues to play in New York, it’s just a matter of getting your foot in the door at the right places that make sense for you and your band. As a pop singer/songwriter, here is a list of my favorites and why!

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood is a venue on the Lower East Side, with three different stages. They book both local and touring bands. I like Rockwood because I’ve never seen an untalented act there. They support good music by being selective in booking and by offering an intimate space with good sound quality, where people actually listen. Many venues are filled with audience noise that you have to battle as a musician, but I’ve never had a real issue with this at Rockwood. I’ve played the venue on about four occasions now, both Stage 1 and 2. I have yet to try out Stage 3, but it seems just as lovely. I also like it here because most of the shows are free and it’s in a location where people may just stumble upon it and decide to go in. Therefore you’ve got a good chance of playing to at least a few new fans every time. It took me a while to get in the door here because they are a very well respected venue and get tons of submissions as you can imagine. Keep following up with emails (without being too aggressive) and If they dig your stuff they’ll give you a go at stage 1.

196 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Email: Info@rockwoodmusichall.com

Arlene’s Grocery

I’ve played here only twice, but I’ve been to several shows as an audience member as well. I like Arlene’s for several reasons. Just like Rockwood, the venue lives in a great location. They have an awesome stage, bigger than other venues of the same level (such as Rockwood) so you can actually move around on the stage and interact with your band members. They also have great sound from both an audience perspective and on stage perspective. They have a room with a bar and a stage (standing audience space), and a separate room that’s just a bar, so usually the room is filled with people who are there to hear your music and those who want to just hang and chat stay in the other room. I also find their pay out system very fair. If you bring 11+ people on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday you get 80% of the door after 10 people pay. If you bring 80 or more people on any night of the week you get 100% of the door. I’ve played in situations where you have to bring a minimum of 30 people on a weeknight to get paid anything, so in comparison Arlene’s system is pretty good I’d say.

93 Stanton St. New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Email: Arlenesbooking@gmail.com

Caffe Vivaldi

I’ve played here on two occasions I believe, and I’ve done the open mic night several times as well. This place has a real old school nyc community vibe too it. I used to live in the West Village a few blocks from here, so I’ve got a soft spot for the venue for sure. I started by playing the open mic night here (sign up at 6pm to draw a number and play 1-2 songs anywhere between 6:30pm and 11pm) and got asked back to play a show. The venue is also a restaurant, and I found the performance experience better on a weekday early evening because people were there to listen and have a drink as opposed to chat over dinner on a Saturday night. They have a beautiful grand piano here which is another plus. The shows here are free as well, they just ask that you buy a drink or some food. I’ve seen some not so great music here and also some truly amazing music here, just depends on the night.

32 Jones St. New York, NY 10014

Email: Listeningroom32@aol.com


Pianos has two spaces: The Showroom and The Upstairs Lounge. If you’ve never played here before they will usually book you for the Upstairs Lounge first (unless you are a big touring act). I’ve played both rooms and each have their perks, but I tend to like the upstairs better actually. Upstairs there is not an actual stage, just a designated performance space in the back corner of the room, so it’s a more casual vibe that the Showroom. Free to enter usually. A lot of acoustic, solo/duo acts perform upstairs, but I’ve also seen and played with a full band. It’s a bar/hang out area that later (especially on weekends) turns into a hoppin’ DJ dance party situation, so there’s often some noise to battle. Even so, I’ve always had a lot of fun playing in this space, and the audience is generally responsive. I recommend throwing in a few fun covers to grab people’s attention. The downstairs Showroom is fun too, very similar to Arlene’s in terms of stage setup and sound.

158 Ludlow St. New York, NY 10002

Email: Booking@Pianosnyc.com

Pete’s Candy Store

I’ve actually only played the Sunday night open mic here. I’ve never tried to book a full show. But I had a great time playing a few songs to a responsive crowd, and I’ve always had a fun time seeing shows here. The venue part of Pete’s reminds me of being inside an old train car (if you’re claustrophobic, maybe skip this one). It’s very compact and the stage is teeny, but it’s got a great old school vibe, sounds good in there, and it’s a seated audience set up so people are really there to listen …can you tell this means a lot to me by now? 🙂 Also, it’s free entry (at least every time I’ve been there), just buy a drink!

709 Lorimer St. Brooklyn NY 11211

Email: Booking@petescandystore.com

Happy booking!

Hillary Capps, a native Vermont singer and songwriter now based in New York City, released her first full-length album entitled ‘The Wishing Forest’ on January 21, 2014. With strong female influences such as Sara Bareilles and Adele, Capps’ pop-oriented music encompasses subtle jazz phrasings and catchy melodies that display mature songwriting and tight musicianship in this promising young artist. You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets here.

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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